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Phoenix Open Preview: Comeback Kid?

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

It happens at least once every season. A young player folds under the Sunday afternoon pressure and let's a golden opportunity slip away. As of, oh, 4:45 p.m. central time Sunday, I had no plans of starting this week's article with the previous line, but that's when everything changed. Kyle Stanley was in control of the Farmers Insurance Open from beginning to nearly the end - and when I say in control, I mean total control; there was absolutely no sign of the impending doom that lay ahead. He was cruising, and as he walked off the 18th tee box, he was within a few shots of his first PGA TOUR victory. The final tee box on Sunday is usually the last chance for nerves to take over, but with his shot in good position off the tee and a short iron to lay up, Stanley appeared to be in the clear. One more hurdle, though, was standing in his way - an approach to the 18th green over water. Although Stanley had plenty of room, both on the green and the scoreboard, to play it ultra safe, he chose a standard shot. Unfotunately, he didn't get the ball high enough on the green, and dribbling into the water it went. It's a mistake a veteran probably doesn't make, but for someone who's rarely been in that position, it's not all that uncommon. Kyle Stanley will be fine. He's shown a lot of game the last year and a half, but this one is going to stick with him a while. At least until he gets a chance to make amends for his mental mistake on the 72nd hole. When that day comes, I'll dust off my glowing review of Kyle Stanley that I didn't get to use this week.

What the Farmers Insurance Open means:

Brandt Snedeker: In case you were wondering, Snedeker actually won last week. Although he was the benefactor of Stanley's misfortune, Snedeker still had to seal the deal in extra time, and for that he deserves credit.

Bill Haas: Apparently Haas isn't off his game, at least he wasn't off when he opened with a 63 last Thursday. After Thursday, however, Haas struggled to find any kind of momentum. That shouldn't be the case going forward, though. Don't expect Haas to throw away an opening round like that again.

Phil Mickelson: A T49 at the Humana wasn't too alarming, after all it was his first start of the season. But a missed cut at Torrey Pines is cause for some concern. He did card a 68 in his final round, however, so maybe it's not time to panic yet.

This week:
Phoenix Open

Last Year:
Mark Wilson shot a final-round 69 on his way to a playoff victory over Jason Dufner.

Players to Consider:

1. Mark Wilson

Wilson is the defending champ and comes in with the confidence gained from a win two weeks ago. His track record at Phoenix is solid with three top-15s in four tries.

2. Nick Watney

Watney's performance last week at the Farmers was a bit of a letdown, but his track record here is strong, and you can't keep him down too long. Look for a strong bounceback effort this week.

3. Kyle Stanley

Stanley can go one of two ways. He can feel sorry for himself and fall victim to self-pity or he can reach deep down and find some resolve. Something tells me, much like Rory McIlroy last Summer, Stanley will also come back stronger than before.

4. Rickie Fowler

If Fowler is going to have the breakout year many expect, it will probably start this week. His track record in Phoenix is good with two top-15s in three starts, including runner-up in 2010.

5. Camilo Villegas

Villegas has shown some flashes this season, but he has not put four rounds together. This could be the week, though, as his history at this event includes two top-10s.

Players to Avoid:

1. Jamie Lovemark

Lovemark makes an appearance on the Avoid List for the second consecutive week as he's yet to show the form yet that made him a hot prospect entering the 2011 season. He'll get it figured out at some point this season, but not this week.

2. Brian Davis

The TPC Scottsdale is not for everyone, and though he's had some success on the West Coast swing the last few years, Davis has yet to find a groove at this venue.

3. Kenny Perry

Perry won this event just three years ago and his track record here is solid overall, but he's simply not the player he was in 2009. Since his victory in 2009, Perry has finished T53 and missed the cut at this event.

4. J.B. Holmes

Holmes won here in dominating fashion in 2008, but his health is still in question, and until we see him at or near 100 percent, it's wise to wait on him. Holmes missed the cut last week at the Farmers.

5. Heath Slocum

Slocum earned a top-10 at Phoenix in 2007, but outside that performance and one other in 2004, Slocum has really struggled here. He's failed to crack the top-70 since that top-10 in 2007.

Yahoo! Fantasy Golf

This week:
Phoenix Open

Group A

1. Nick Watney
2. Kyle Stanley

It pains me to leave Webb Simpson off the roster. After all, he finished in the top-10 here and is one of the best players on the PGA TOUR. But I have a feeling I'll still find plenty of places to start him the remainder of the season.

Group B

1. Mark Wilson
2. Bill Haas
3. Brandt Snedeker
4. Rickie Fowler

Fowler is the only carry over from last week, and hopefully he plays as well as he did last week, if not better. Snedeker has the ability to get hot for weeks at a time. Considering he played well here last year, he looks like a great pick this week. As for Haas, I really hope that I'm not a week too late on him. There are players every year with whom you have a tough time synching up, and Haas might be one. We shall see this week.

Group C

1. Johnson Wagner
2. Martin Laird

Not exactly the most exciting group of players from Group C, but you have to hand it to them, Wagner and Laird have been really productive this season. I'll be interested to see if Wagner can keep his roll going this week.

Starters Round One

1. Nick Watney
2. Brandt Snedeker
3. Mark Wilson
4. Johnson Wagner

As much as I believe that Stanley will bounce back this week, I need to see it first, so I'll start with Watney from Group A. Group B came down to three players, Snedeker, Wilson and Fowler. Snedeker enters with a ton of momentum and Wilson as well, so I'm going with that duo. Laird is the choice in Group C because of his play here last year. Laird finished just outside the playoff and will likely pick up where he left off last year.

Round Two and Going Forward:

I'll keep a close eye on Kyle Stanley on Thursday. If he shakes off the disappointment of last week early, then I'll likely find a spot for him Friday. If he shows any sign that last week is still in his mind, then I'm fine with Watney for the entire week. Group B is really a three-man team with Haas on the outside looking in. That's not to say he can't crack the line-up, but he'll likely be the last one in, if he gets in at all. Group C is Laird's because of his track record, but if Wagner shows his form from a couple weeks ago, I'll have to find a start for him.

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